PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – New York Life Insurance and Annuity failed to stop a financial adviser who “raided” the bank and investment accounts of a woman in her 90s and “left her nearly destitute,” according to a complaint in Multnomah County Court.
Michael Gattuccio says the insurance company’s subsidiaries let financial adviser Colleen Averill strip his mother’s assets before her August 2010 death at the age of 96. Averill is not a party to the civil action.
Mary Gattuccio Pence developed a business relationship with Averill in the late 1990s, according to the complaint.
Averill sold Pence a fixed annuity, and continued to work with Pence after taking a job with Ohio National Insurance in 2002.
“Based on her status with NYLife [Securities], NYLIAC [New York Life Insurance and Annuity], and Ohio National, Averill was able to develop a relationship of trust with Pence, even frequently visiting Pence at home and acting like she was one of Pence’s best friends,” the complaint says.
Averill became Pence’s “go-to” person for financial and investment concerns, but the agent never told Pence that she stopped worked for NYLife, Gattuccio says.
“By the end of 2005, Averill had so thoroughly manipulated Pence … that she had access to all of [her] personal information, and … knew the locations of and account numbers for all of Pence’s various investment and bank accounts,” according to the complaint.
When Pence moved into an assisted-living home, Averill advised the widow to sell “the home she built with her first husband,” Gattuccio says.
Then in February 2006, Averill allegedly forged Pence’s signature and made herself a joint owner of Averill’s checking account with OnPoint Community Credit Union.
Around the same time, Averill sometimes posed as Pence to request dispersals from Pence’s accounts, according to the complaint.
Gattuccio says Averill was arrested and charged with 90 counts of aggravated theft in 2009. She is currently serving three years for seven counts of aggravated theft, seven counts of criminal mistreatment of an elderly person, and two counts of forgery after pleading no contest to the charges last February, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit says the “common denominator” in Averill’s criminal activity was “her status as Pence’s financial advisor and investment broker” that she “attained and was able to maintain through her agency and/or employment relationship with Ohio National, NYLIAC, NYLIFE, and NYLIM [New York Life Investment Management].”
Pence’s son sued the companies, as well as unknown parties, for over $2.2 million in damages. He is represented by Andrew Reilly with Black Helterline.